Last week I met with angel investor Bill Warner. The founder of Avid Technologies, Bill knows something about starting a company, managing through growth, and making money. For the last 14 years or so he’s shared that knowledge with a host of start ups both as an investor and an advisor.
Still in its infancy, Sparkcloud aspires to be a new kind of social network. Unlike the Facebooks and Twitters that unite us virtually, Sparkcloud’s intention is to connect people in person around like-minded interests, needs or opportunities. Think angel investors who want to meet entrepreneurs in search of funding, for example. Or writers who want to meet other writers. Or, for that matter, anyone who has knowledge and wisdom to share with people anxious to learn.
According to Tommarello, “Sparkcloud is about helping people get back to the way things were a hundred years ago, when you knew most of the people who lived in your town, and you were more integrated into your physical surroundings. The Web has gotten good at connecting us with people around the globe, but not so much in our neighborhood.”
Right now the platform’s basic capability is called Open Doors. You, I, or anyone can make ourselves available, as part of Open Doors, to those eager to meet with us, whether it’s to talk and share ideas, or explore mutual opportunities. We can offer up our time for free, simply because we want to give or hope to get, or we can charge people to sit down with us, if not for our own profitability then perhaps as a way to raise money for a charity. It’s an interesting concept based on the idea that we need better tools to help us find our “tribes” in real life.
Like any new platform, Sparkcloud is likely to get “invented” by its users. As people start experimenting with the service they’ll discover new uses for it and different reasons to connect in person. Will it succeed? Become the next Facebook? Who knows? As Bill himself will tell you his track record over the years is filled with as many failures as successes.
But there does seem to be a new trend emerging in the social space: platforms and programs that bring us together in real life. Think Foursquare, Gowalla, and Plancast, along with a number of other new services that may or may not catch on.
Yet Sparkcloud is different. If Foursquare and Gowalla are about physically finding people we already know (the Facebooks of location based social) Sparkcloud is about putting us in the same room with someone we hope to know (Twitter-like, if you will, or even Match.com for a different kind of potential relationship).
I may give it a try, for no other reason than I feel compelled to give everything new a try. If so, perhaps you’ll find me there and we’ll meet IRL. What do you think? You happy with your virtual relationships? Would you offer your time and wisdom to someone eager and interested? What would have to be in it for you?
Photo by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/